As a high school age kid growing up in the south, the change from oppressive heat and humidity of summer to the cool crisp fall air could only mean one thing- Football. It’s important to put in context that in the the south, where church attendance is sacrosanct, high school football takes on an almost religious significance.
The official kick off of the football season was marked by the first big home field game known as Homecoming.
During the days leading up to the game there was an almost palpable excitement in the school halls and classrooms. Football team members houses were “rolled” -literally decorated with toilet paper. Homemade banners were displayed on their laws stating “Defeat Dunwoody” or “Cage the Cougars” or something like that. The actual game on some level was rigged that they would play a worse team in order to guarantee a victory. Nonetheless, the crowning event of homecoming was the dance afterwards known as a “sock hop”. Held in the high school gym which doubled as the auditorium, basketball court and stage for drama class (technically my first off Broadway play- Oliver!) For homecoming it was transformed into a music call with the requisite ear splitting loud music and almost blinding strobe lights. The only requirement was shoes were not permitted as they might scuff the floor.
Of course in observant Judaism, especially at the day school or Yeshiva level there is no football season, no cheerleaders (obvious tznius issues) and no equivalent of a sock hop.
However, I would argue that we do have something akin to homecoming.
We just completed Shimini Atzeres and Shimchat Torah. (I’m still full and there’s tons of leftovers)
Both holidays continue the theme of Sukkot, namely the Zman Simchasaynu or “time of our happiness” . On some level (lahavdil) this whole process is like a homecoming. The “big game” is of course the beginning of the Torah cycle anew this week with parsha Bereshis.
The Torah opens with the description of creation. Commentators including Rashi are somewhat puzzled by the opening salvo בראשית ברא translated “in the beginning of his creation G-D created” this first calls out loud for an explanation. Rashi further states that the rabbis explain it as such: God created the world for the sake of the Torah which is called the “beginning” or ראשית of creation and gave the Torah for the sake of Israel who are called (in Yirimiah/Jeremiah) the ראשית /beginning of G-day’s way.
I think the take-home here for the us is that the culmination of the Yomim Tovim is to bring us back to our “home”- namely as the “people of the book” for which we are taught that a person should view him/herself that the world was built for their sake. Not to be taken as a self-centered viewpoint of the world, but rather an understanding that we have a mission to for fill G-d’s will in the world and we have the Torah as our blueprint on how to do it.
With that in mind I derive a great deal of comfort knowing that tomorrow I’m coming back home to the beginning of the book that makes us who we are as the Jewish people.
With that I wish y’all a good Shabbos and homecoming. Go team!